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Christopher Cipoletti has been fired as executive director of the American Numismatic Association
Tuesday October 16, 2007 9:16 PM

Christopher Cipoletti has been fired as executive director and legal counsel of the Colorado Springs-based American Numismatic Association, the nation’s largest coin collector organization, effective 5 p.m. today.

The association’s nine-member board of governors voted to “terminate with cause” Cipoletti’s employment in a closed executive session Monday evening and announced the decision today during a public meeting broadcast to the organization’s 35 staff members.

“Because it’s an employment issue, we don’t give specifics, but we felt there’s adequate cause to fire him,” Barry Stuppler, president of the board, said in an interview after the meeting.

Cipoletti, 46, did not return a call to his Colorado Springs home today. Cipoletti, a lawyer who specializes in employment law, had been executive director since January 2003 and also served as the organization’s legal counsel.

The move by the board, voted in by the organization’s 32,000 members a few months ago, caps years of turmoil for the association, which was federally chartered by Congress in 1891 as an educational, historical and scientific nonprofit organization. Questions about finances, claims of secrecy, staff turnover and a pending lawsuit have plagued the organization.

“It may be fall outside, but to us it’s bright spring — this board and staff are paving the way for the association to move up and beyond where it’s been,” said Ed Rochette after today's announcements. Rochette served as association executive director before Cipoletti’s term and is now a board member. The local money museum is named after him.

An arbitrator will help settle Cipoletti’s employment contract with the association, which runs through Dec. 31, 2008, with an option for a five-year renewal, Stuppler said. The organization’s projected $800,000 operating budget deficit for this fiscal year could be affected by the outcome of the arbitration, he said.

Cipoletti gave a presentation of an undisclosed nature to the board for more than an hour during a working dinner Monday, Stuppler said.

“After his presentation, we decided to terminate him,” Stuppler said.

A committee will set directives for hiring a new executive director, Stuppler said. Former association president Kenneth Hallenbeck of Colorado Springs is acting executive director.

“Members have every reason to be optimistic about the future, given the current board and leadership of the ANA,” said Sam Deep, a 27-year member of the organization from Pittsburgh, who attended Tuesday’s meeting here.

Cipoletti’s removal also prompted the board to nullify a $1 million donation pledge — the largest financial pledge in the organization’s history — from a member that Stuppler said was contingent on the organization maintaining the same management and granting naming rights to two proposed money museums.

Cipoletti has been on administrative leave since Aug. 12, the first official action of the new board. Stuppler said Cipoletti was placed on leave to give him time to concentrate on a civil lawsuit he and the American Numismatic Association filed more than two years ago against three former employees and an independent computer contractor and his company. The lawsuit alleges civil theft of proprietary business information, harassment against Cipoletti, civil conspiracy, breach of fiduciary duty and other complaints.

Cipoletti’s change of employment status in August prompted the association’s lawyer handling the case to resign, and a new attorney, Lance Sears of Sears & Swanson PC in Colorado Springs, has been retained to represent the co-plaintiffs, Stuppler said.

“The ANA has hired an attorney to look into the ANA’s position in the lawsuit,” he said.

This month, a jury trial in 4th Judicial District Court was rescheduled for the fourth time to Aug. 18, 2008. The four defendants have filed a motion for partial summary judgment, which has not been ruled on.

The association has paid about $400,000 in legal fees on the case, Stuppler said.

Board members also in August raised questions about the organization’s operating budget deficit, which for the past five years under Cipoletti’s leadership has ranged annually from $266,000 to more than $1 million.

The board hired an independent certified public accounting firm to determine whether an audit is needed. Stuppler said Tuesday that the board had not received the report.

Based on the financial picture, the board Monday agreed to withdraw $925,000 from its endowment fund of approximately $21 million to pay off a bank line of credit.

“We felt it was not acceptable to have that credit line,” Stuppler said.

Board members also voted Monday to scrap plans to build a money museum inside the historic San Francisco Mint, and decided in a board conference call Oct. 2 to cancel plans to build a $20 million museum in Washington, D.C., saying it could not handle such a financial commitment. Stuppler said plans to expand the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum in Colorado Springs are on hold.

Stuppler pledged an open, transparent atmosphere for the board, staff and members.

“We have a new management change, a new structure and a new culture,” he said. “In the past, there hasn’t been an open line of communication, and we’re trying to remedy that.”

Cipoletti’s annual salary, benefits and expense account totaled more than $250,000.

Attorney Ron Sirna of Michigan replaces Cipoletti as general counsel.

American Numismatic Association Tuesday October 16, 2007 9:16 PM

Christopher Cipoletti has been fired as executive director of the American Numismatic Association

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